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Finnish Researchers Join with International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and UC Berkeley to Study Technology and the Information Society
01 Feb 2001

By Catherine Zandonella, Media Relations

Berkeley - Researchers from one of the world's most technologically-advanced countries, Finland, and researchers at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and the University of California, Berkeley, will launch a collaboration to spark new discoveries in computer science, e-commerce, intellectual property rights and the sociology of the information society.

The research agreement, to be announced Thursday, Feb. 1 at noon, will open the doors for Finnish researchers to spend a year or more in the Berkeley research community engaging in studies to propel innovation in the interest of society.

"This is the beginning of something that will benefit the research community and society as a whole," said Nelson Morgan, ICSI director and a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

The collaboration is being sponsored by the National Technology Agency of Finland (TEKES), the principal funding agency for applied research and development in Finland. TEKES and industry giants like Nokia Corp. and Sonera Group, a Finnish telecommunications provider, have led the way in bringing technology to Finnish consumers.

To continue this tradition of innovation, TEKES sought a partnership with the UC Berkeley-affiliated ICSI, an independent, non-profit basic research organization dedicated to fundamental questions in computer science and engineering. For Finnish researchers, part of their attraction to UC Berkeley was the work of sociology professor Manuel Castells, a renowned expert on the impact of information technology on society. Castells is a UC Berkeley professor of sociology and city and regional planning.

"This initiative kind of got started because of Castells' interest in the Finnish knowledge society," said Henri Grundsten, head of the TEKES office in San Jose.

For ICSI and UC Berkeley researchers, the collaboration provides numerous opportunities to learn how Finnish technologists and entrepreneurs function. "There are lessons to be learned from the way the Scandinavian countries do it," said J. Richard Beer, executive director of the Fisher Center for the Strategic Use of Information Technology at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. He hopes to retain a Finnish researcher in his work on entrepreneurial aspects of technology. "In some ways," said Beer, "they are further along than the U.S."

One of the goals of the collaboration is to learn more about how technology affects human beings and their interactions. "We (American society and Finnish society) are working on similar problems in terms of the impact of technology on social and economic life," said Hal Varian, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Information Management & Systems. "These questions involve economic, business, legal and technological considerations, and UC Berkeley is a leader in all four areas."

The research projects launching the collaboration include:

* Creation of a portable digital tape recorder that uses robust speech recognition to create indexed and annotated text for archiving meetings (Nelson Morgan).

* The design of regulations and technologies to protect intellectual property rights for digital movies, books and other electronic information (Hal Varian).

* A project to discover how the human brain acquires language and how these results can be applied to designing more intelligent computer systems (Jerome Feldman, ICSI researcher and UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences).

* The study of economic and social transformations associated with the information technology revolution (Manuel Castells).